Walnut Cancer Preventative
Walnuts as a Cancer Preventative
That was the remarkable finding of a recent study conducted by a research team from Marshall University in West Virginia and published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.
But the drastic drop in breast cancer development wasn’t the only thing this “special diet” had up its sleeve. It turns out that the mice eating the special diet that were unlucky enough to develop breast cancer had fewer and smaller tumors when they did.
I bet you’re wondering what this “special diet” consisted of, right?
Well you’re not going to believe this one. It was simply the addition of the humble walnut to their diet that caused the cancer rate to plummet.
On second thought maybe you won’t have trouble believing walnuts can make such a difference since I’ve sung the praises of this remarkable healing food on more than one occasion.
I’ve told you before about the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and ALA that the walnut has hidden inside its shell. And last January I explained how a regular handful of these healthy nuts could play an important role in fighting off heart disease and diabetes.
Then in March I wrote to you about the remarkable findings of a researcher from the American Chemical Society who had concluded that walnuts packed in more antioxidants and higher-quality ones than all of the other common nuts tested.
Well, now it looks like the walnut can update its resume with “cancer fighter.”
Marshall University researchers compared the effects of a typical mouse diet and one that contained regular English walnuts across a mouse’s entire lifespan; feeding them to mouse moms from conception all the way through weaning and then, eventually, the mouse eating the walnuts on its own as an adult.
Remarkably, the walnut-eating mice developed breast cancer at a more than 50% lower rate than the regular-diet mice. Oh, and I should also mention that the mice used in the study were genetically programmed to develop cancer at a high rate and the walnuts performed this minor miracle despite the presence of this pre-existing genetic mutation.
The amount of cancer-busting walnuts added to the test diet equates to what would be about 2 ounces per day for us…or around two handfuls daily.
I’m guessing that about now you’re probably thinking, “Whoa, hold on a second there Alice, that’s a heck of a lot of nuts!” And, honestly, I can’t disagree with you. I love walnuts as much as the next girl, but two handfuls of walnuts day in and day out for 365 days a year might become too much for anyone’s taste buds not to mention their wallets.
But that’s why it’s important to look at what the data from this study is actually telling us and that’s that there are ingredients within walnuts that reduce the risk of cancer and can even slow its growth. The obvious contenders for these cancer-fighting superstars are the omega-3 fatty acids I mentioned earlier and vitamin E. And, in fact, genetic analysis done by the Marshall researchers indeed points to both nutrients as the vital cancer-thwarting ingredients in the nuts.
So go ahead and indulge in healthy walnuts, but don’t feel like you have to stick with only walnuts.
You can add other omega-3 and vitamin E packed foods to your diet like, for example, cold-water wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, pumpkin seed and walnut oils, and other nuts and seeds.
Encouraging you to grab your nutcracker and start snacking…uh…I mean fighting cancer, I am…
The Benefits of Walnut Oil
Of all the nut oils, walnut oil is clearly one of the healthiest. In the olden days, it was used to cure many ailments including stomach and skin problems, tuberculosis (although, admittedly, the jury is out on just how successful that might have been!), hair loss and diabetes.
Today, however, walnut oil is more revered as a healthy source of fat. Walnuts are high in alpha-linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that is converted to EPA and DHA (long-chain omega-3s ) in the body. Furthermore, walnut oil is also a great source of omega-9, which helps maintain artery health, as well as omega-6 (you gotta have some of ‘em), which is important for skin and hair growth as well as maintaining a healthy reproductive system.
So let’s take it to the lab and put walnut oil to the test! In a study conducted by University of California-Davis, researchers found  that hamsters that ate walnut-infused feed had significantly lower levels of endothelin, a naturally occurring chemical that causes inflammation of arteries and plaque accumulation in vessels (both of which are linked to heart disease). In addition, consumption of walnuts was associated with a 64% increase in the elasticity of arteries  and was found to prevent endothelial dysfunction (which has been linked with coronary artery disease and other cardiac ailments) in patients with high cholesterol.
Other pros for walnut oil (and walnuts in general) are that they are a great source of antioxidants, delivering more than 20 mmol antioxidants per 100 grams (making it one of the best sources of antioxidants among tree nut varieties). Specifically, walnuts are a great source of ellagic acid, which helps detoxify potential cancer-causing substances and helps limit the replication of cancer cells. To help these antioxidants along, walnuts are a very good source of manganese and copper, two minerals that act as catalysts in antioxidant reactions. Finally, walnuts are also a natural source of melatonin, a hormone produced by the pineal gland that is thought to play a role in regulating sleep.
Although slightly more expensive than other oils, walnut oil is a delicious and easy-to-use oil to use in food preparation. It has a light, delicate flavor and scent that makes it a good match for fine balsamic vinegars, red wine vinegars and tarragon white vinegar when used in salad dressings and can also be used to add flavor to grilled fish or meat dishes. When using it in cooking, chefs suggest that you avoid using it at high temperatures, as the heat can turn the oil bitter and destroy some of its antioxidant properties.
Like any healthy unsaturated fat, walnut oil is best when stored in a cool place and should be used up or tossed out within six weeks after first opening.
funadium  Flickr Photo (CC)
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